The Bell Let's Talk program is back and in full swing. Last I checked there were almost 28,000,000 interactions leading to millions of dollars in funding for various mental health initiatives nationwide.
More importantly, the campaign sparks conversations nationwide with celebrities, like Mary Walsh, Michael Landsberg, and Clara Hughes, right there at the forefront. This is the time of year when the curtain of stigma is raised just enough that we as a people can open up and talk about what mental illness means to us.
Personally I battle depression and addiction on a daily basis. I have learned over the course of education and my own therapeutic experience how to deal with those things in order to keep friends and family away from my problems. It was only a few years ago that I finally decided to let more people into my war room and it was incredible... one these folks got passed the initial distraction of 'Why didn't you say anything sooner?'... like it's some kind of surprise that people do that.
My weapons in the fight against depression and anxiety are accountability partners. The addiction side of things has been pushed back to sea for almost 10 years but the objects of my temptation are almost unavoidable. Depression is a battle within my own head. It wears out my motivation, stops me from being able to do the things I need to do, wipes my memory, stops me from being able to concentrate, I regularly become irritable, and every now and again I feel an odd sense of hopelessness. When any of these are getting particularly bad I have my wife, other family, and plenty of friends to tell me I need to do something.
Which brings me to what I do: a combination of scheduling, meditation, and exercise. Scheduling my day-to-day activities and having someone know what I should be doing forces me to get off my rear-end and do stuff, particularly stuff I enjoy doing like taking long walks or writing. Meditation is different for everyone but my meditation is a form of mindfulness where I identify the triggers of my depression symptoms and learn to accept that they have taken residence in my head. Exercise is a remarkable tool in the battle against depression, specifically aerobic exercise, because it gets the blood flowing in the body and you're taking in oxygen. Going for a bike ride (including exercise bike in your home or gym) or a walk (outside, treadmill, elliptical) are the simplest and most efficient options. I like going to gyms when I am on vacation and when there is a deal on memberships but otherwise I like the comfort of my own home and as I mentioned earlier in this paragraph I like going for walks. The depression goes back to its war room and we prepare to fight another day.
For some reason that continues to escape me there is a notion floating around that guilt and shame are bad things and, worse, that they are the same emotion. I want to curtail the latter before getting too much further. Guilt and Shame are two completely different emotions.
Guilt comes into play when a person feels bad for their actions, knowing that they have done something wrong. What happens with guilt is that the person will move toward making up for the error made. May not always fix the problem but at least this person moves in the right direction. The guilty person seeks reconciliation with individuals, with communities, and with God, just to name a few. You will notice that this is not a title that can be assigned to a person. When a person is decided guilty by law they have to take the step of restoration on their own.
The opposite is true for the person who is ashamed. The person who is ashamed is aware that something is wrong but cannot pinpoint what exactly the problem is or how it can be fixed. Shame has a habit of pushing us in all directions except the one that allows us to fix the problem we started. To use a Biblical example, look at the story of Adam and Eve. God gave one instruction, "Eat not of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil," and up until they ate of the fruit they were, "Naked and without shame." (More on that later.) Upon eating the fruit they hid from one-another and from God. What did they see? By eating the fruit they saw what humans could be capable of doing to one-another. They wronged God, with whom they had a perfect relationship, who did not want humankind to know the evils that humans are capable of, and hid from Him instead of attempting to make amends (Genesis 2:4-3:24).
New Year's Resolutions are a beautiful thing. People decide, often under pressure, some things about themselves they want to fix and make the year following January 1 at 00:01 am the year to make those changes. Stop smoking, quit drinking, lose weight, exercise more, grow in faith, be a better student...
Actually, that's what I despise about New Year's. I love the celebration of the random astronomical event just as much as the next person but we set ourselves up for failure unless we are prepared to make our New Year's resolutions a reality. I almost see a simple irony in the New Year's resolution thing because a resolution, by definition, is action oriented and thought out. "I resolve to lose weight" or "... drink less" and whatever else are fantastic statements but now you have to back it up.
Take me, for example. I am starting up a private psychotherapy practice as part of my NYRs but I have been planning this venture for the better part of the last year; plans that have now been set forth. Additionally I want to work on my weight and cardiovascular health as neither are in particularly great condition. I am a former lifeguard and amateur athlete who is now over 300 pounds. My goal is to get down to 250 pounds by the end of 2016 which is reasonable - about a pound a week - and that also sets me up for long-term maintenance.
To get there you need a plan, a schedule, and an accountability partner - someone who is working with you or has already accomplished the goals you want to accomplish. For my weight loss and exercise I have all three for the whole year and will probably get a couple of others involved by spring to make things more interesting. Scheduling and planning are the hardest parts but that is where I can help. We will set accurate and realistic goals targeting your specific needs and add items to your program to help track your progress.
Burnout is completely avoidable. New Year's Resolution burnout happens when we set expectations for ourselves that we are actually not prepared to complete. We overdo something early, like exercise, and we become exhausted on Day 1 making it difficult to motivate for Day 2, 3, 4, and so on. Over and above scheduling we can also discuss burnout, exhaustion, and motivation so that you can succeed in your NYRs this year and be a better you. Let's work together.
Join me in making 2016 a healthy and responsible year.
When you go through the education process for becoming a therapist or counsellor you wind up learning some dozens of different styles, theories, and models. You may have even heard of a few different styles over your lifetime in passing: Psychodynamic, Humanistic, Cognitive, Behavioural, Existential... and alike. Quite a few therapists hold true to one form or another based on an icon in Psychology they admire. For example: Carl Jung, a student of Sigmund Freud (if you want to watch a movie that does a great job depicting his rise to notoriety check out A Dangerous Method). As a student of Freud you can imagine that a lot of his training focused on sexual aspects of our psychology but he took that much deeper than Freud did in many circumstances to help us understand why our minds focus on certain icons in our subconscious - in other words, he was big into dream interpretation.
I bounce between theoretical models very often, sometimes with the same client, because each brings something one client may need at one point or another in their treatment. One model I have started using more often is a branch of logotherapy, part of the Existential school of psychotherapy brought in by Viktor Frankl, wherein we work to find meaning in one's life. The beauty of existential psychology is its birth out of an opposing philosophy in Nihilism brought on by the work of Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche wrote about the Will to Power and how we strive for dominance and our how ability to adapt for survival and the competition therein unconsciously guides our behaviour. It is a philosophical failing that brought forth existentialism - or, more accurately, the philosophical failing brought a rebirth of existentialism - in Frankl who used the work of Soren Kierkegaard in the Will to Meaning to talk about how we fundamentally strive to be guided and do something worthwhile in our time (although Kierkegaard in Will to Meaning saw the 'meaning of life' motifs as unjustified and, further, utterly useless).
After Soren Kierkegaard in Existentialism came Jean-Paul Sartre. Something of nihilist in his own right he made the circular argument that existence precedes essence, or humans exist and therefore have meaning. The essence of what the knife will be exists before the actual knife. An atheist (like almost all early existentialists), Sartre believed that if there is no God there was no preconception of our nature and therefore we exist to find our own nature and meaning instead of the other way around. Around the same time Freud was developing the work of Jeremy Bentham in that we have the Will to Pleasure, meaning humans are guided, further, governed by the masters of pain and pleasure and it is our unconscious/semiconscious meaning to maximize pleasure while minimizing pain. Frankl, the more reasonable person in my personal and professional opinion, discerned the danger of the Will to Pleasure and the hedonism that follows in developing logotherapy.
The following tenets describe Frankl's logotherapy:
I take logotherapy in one additional direction. Going back to Sartre where existence precedes essence, that the object or person exists before its/their meaning, I take logotherapy to the meaning of words in therapy. The original Greek "logos or λόγος" is the word for meaning as well as word. [John 1:1 "In the beginning there was the Word; and, the Word was with God and the Word was God."] What I do in logotherapy is help people seek meaning in their lives and use words properly in their lives.
As we grow and develop in our maturity we learn new words and their meanings and adapt our language accordingly, for the most part. Old words are replaced by new words and phrases to help us better explain ourselves. Generally our more mature language is a reflection of synonyms that we learn over time.
Take a word like justify that I hear in therapy all the time. When a person tells me they justify a person's behaviours they rarely realize what that word means. In law a person is justified if the judge and/or jury decides that the actions placed before them are either not wrong or there isn't enough evidence to say the actions actually happened or were intended. The court then takes responsibility for that person's actions as an organization should it be found that the person was, in fact, guilty. The person is then legally absolved and acquitted (both words are synonyms for justify). We are, at best, capable of rationalizing and forgiving a person for their wrongdoing but we have to still hold people accountable for their actions unless the court can decide otherwise.
The people I hear saying justify the most are men and women in abusive relationships. Abuse takes many forms: verbal, physical, financial, social, sexual, and psychological, just to name a few; each of which are equally distressing. However, when the court decides to justify a person there is a structure in place for restoration even with absolution. When a person justifies a person there is no such system in place to protect and restore balance. In fact, when we justify a person we take on that person's responsibility and often open the door to allow them to do that same thing again and again.
What I do is help the person develop their vocabulary. We are quite capable of forgiving - relieving ourselves of the displeasure that came from others' failure against or toward us - but few of us are truly capable of justifying.
Just a way to get a few thoughts across outside of the office. In this blog you may even find entries that assist in your healing without needing a session